No. 347 - St Anthony of Padua at Boobyalla - 'A Rather Inflammable Condition'

The former settlement of Boobyalla in north east Tasmania was situated at the mouth of the Ringarooma River, approximately 16 km from Gladstone. The settlement was originally known as Ringarooma Port and was established to supply the tin mines in the hinterland and to ship out ore. Boobyalla declined as a port after the north east railway was built. Little remains of the town, as buildings such as the hotel, church and houses were either burned down by bushfires or removed. Remnants of the old wharf are still visible.

Very little is known about the Catholic church at Boobyalla other than its establishment in 1884 and its destruction by fire in 1913. In February 1884 the Hobart Mercury reported in passing that Bishop Murphy was to dedicate a church at Boobyalla after opening the church of St Martin’s at Ringarooma. The Bishop was then to proceed from Boobyalla to Launceston by steamship accompanied by Father Mary of George’s Bay. A notice in the Daily Telegraph confirms that “St Antony of Sadua” was to be dedicated on Thursday 21 February 1884.

Father Martial Mary was responsible for ministering across the remote and rugged north East of Tasmania. In July 1883, the correspondent for the Hobart Mercury wrote:

“The Rev. Father Mary and I met frequently - sometimes in the wild bush passes of this country, sometimes at camps or hotels. My life is hard enough, but his, bar one thing, is harder. I have a family dependent on a precarious calling; he has not. Rain, hail, or snow, he is on the travel, his district reaching from the Devil’s Creek, near Falmouth, through to Cape Portland. He administers to the spiritual wants of a people spread over Falmouth, George’s Bay, Gould’s Country, Moorina, Brothers Home, Branxholm, upper Ringarooma, and within a few miles of Scottsdale on this line, and at Gladstone, Ringarooma port, Cape Portland, Boobyalla, etc., at various tangents. As regular as the month comes he is at his post, and the sturdy fellows who come to his ministrations, through hail, rain, and bog, eight and ten miles even, and then trudge back to their miserable camps, are surely a living reproach to many of our fine-bred town people, who, except in rare cases, are scared from walking over half-a-mile of clean side-walk to church or chapel by a passing cloud”.

Boobyalla’s remoteness and short existence, is the reason why no report of activities at St Antony’s is found in newspapers from the time. Although the date of the church’s closure is not know, the date of its destruction is. On 1 January 1914, the Mercury reported:

“A heavy thunderstorm, accompanied by vivid forked lightening, passed over Boobyalla, …. about midday on Tuesday. During the height of the storm, the old Roman Catholic Church, situated about 80 yards from the Post Office, was struck by lightening, and in less than 20 minutes was a smoking heap of ruins. The structure has not been used for a good many years. It was in a rather inflammable condition, being lined throughout with pine”.

Although St Antony’s was a short lived church, probably operating for no more than two decades, it is nevertheless a part of the story of the mining frontier of north east Tasmania. No other denomination built a church at Boobyalla, and St Antony’s very existence is a testimony to the faith and dedication of Father Martial Mary.

After a quarter of a century in Tasmania as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, Father Martial Mary returned to his native France in 1903. In 1923 he was found living in Genoa in “distressed conditions”. Money was raised in Tasmania to send to Father Mary but he died shortly after this.

No photograph exists of St Antony's. Image: Duncan Grant 2019

Daily Telegraph 6 February 1884

Boobyalla: Source QVMAG 1983:P:0572 

Map of Boobyalla in the early 1900's. Source: Wikipedia - produced by Wriekhathaar 1 March 2013

The cemetery at Boobyalla: Source QVMAG: 1997:P:5273 - Clyde V. Coombe


Mercury, Saturday 21 July 1883, page 2
Daily Telegraph 6 February 1884, page 1
The Mercury, Monday 18 February 1884, page 3
Mercury, Thursday 1 January 1914, page 5


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